If you step outside of the influence of the media in the USA, you start to realize how much fear is used to sell, control and manipulate people.
Now to me, there are two types of fear.
- Reality based fear
- Perceptual based fear
Now reality based fear is pretty easy to understand. If you wake up in the middle of the night and there is smoke and fire in your house, your fear is based on reality, the reality of the situation you are in.
But that fear can be controlled with knowledge and experience. If you have never been in a fire, your instinct is to get out. If you have been trained as a fire fighter, while your instincts might be screaming at you to not go into the fire, your training and experience give you a degree of control over that fear and you do your job.
The reality of the fire has not changed, your response to your reality based fear does.
So what about perceptual based fear? Well, let’s look at the definition of perception.
: the way you think about or understand someone or something
: the ability to understand or notice something easily
: the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses
The above is from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
So taking the first definition, “the way you think about or understand someone or something”, notice that this is not necessarily reality based. Perceptions can be manipulated by various influences either accidentally or on purpose.
Let’s take the fear of spiders. Even though most spiders are harmless, a lot of people are scared of spiders. Ironically the larger ones, such as tarantulas, are harmless while their much small cousin, the brown recluse, is pretty nasty. But people are more scared of the large spiders than them smaller ones. It is a perceptual fear with a basis in reality. While the reality is that a small percentage of spiders are deadly, it is also reality that most are not. This is not an intentional manipulation of perception, more of an accidental or natural misconception.
So now let’s look at perceptual fears that are based on intentionally manipulated perceptions.
One of the most blatant to me was the manipulation of perceptions about Muslims after 9/11. The USA, needing a new enemy after the USSR went out of business, found the perfect enemy in radical terrorist claiming to commit these acts in the name of Islam. I’m not disputing that these acts occurred as portrayed by the media (a topic for another forum) but for years we were told that terrorist were out to get us. “They hate us for our freedoms”. The “threat” of the use of biological terrorism was so heavily portrayed that people were buying duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal up a “safe room” against biological or chemical terrorist attacks, 3 people suffocated in one of these “safe rooms” because of the perception of an imminent attack by terrorist that never came. While there were deaths by terrorist, the numbers that died were by far lower than most other causes of deaths in the USA such as vehicle accidents, cancer, heart disease or, for that matter, Iatrogenic Deaths (Deaths induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures) which for one year was over 700, 000 US citizens! Obviously iatrogenic death was a much greater threat than terrorist but which threat got the most media attention?
Another example of perceived fears, and more PB related, is the fear of cholesterol as being the main cause of cardiac disease. If the “science” behind these fears was manipulated to fulfill some agenda or was simply flawed science, doesn’t change the fact that a large portion of the population in the USA, and other countries, cut out animal fats, eggs, bacon, etc. in order to avoid this perceptual fear of having a heart attack if they did not change their diet. The perceived fear went further into the flawed USDA “Food pyramid”, the use of stantin drugs, overeating of heavily processed but “low fat” foods, etc.
The problem with perceived fears is that they are often formed by a sole source (I consider the major media sources to be a single, and biased, source). People often don’t take the single source of information presented to them, that sows the seed of their fear, and research it further to see if their fear is justified or manipulated.
Let’s take the example above of a possible house fire. You wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke; fear is a natural reaction to that smell. But if you take that as your sole source of information, you panic, gather up your family and rush out the door to only find that the smoke is coming from your idiot neighbor who decided to burn his trash that night.
If your bombarded by a constant barrage of messages from the idiot tube (named as such for a reason) and don’t look beyond that single source, then you will be manipulated to take this new drug, buy this new fitness product, fear this new “threat” or mindlessly buy into a new law.
And I’m afraid that this tendency of Americans to be brought to a constant state of fear is generational. When I was growing up, no car seats, no seat belts, no bike helmets, no bottled water, few vaccinations, few trips to the doctor every time we sneezed. We fought, we played, we got hurt, we healed up. While we lived under the potential threat of a war with the Soviet Union, it wasn’t as constantly shoved down our throats as current potential threats are. Of course, we only had 3 TV channels, no internet and (GASP!), no cell phones.
We roamed the streets until, or after, nightfall. The concept of “Stanger danger” was alien to us because, while there was no doubt the occasional kid kidnapped or molested, it wasn’t broadcast around the world and flashed up on government billboards by the highway.
But now, the generations of adults that were coddled and shroud in layers of protective barriers, are raising kids of their own the same way.
Kids going to school now, if they are allowed to ride their bikes, are helmeted, knee-padded, elbow-padded and carrying bottles of anti-bacterial crap in their backpacks. They are overly vaccinated, overly prescribed antibiotics and have weak immunity systems. They are being raised by fearful parents to be fearful adults.
“Safety first”, “we have to do it for the children”, “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here”, etc. are becoming the justification for all manners of “protective measures”, infringements on our freedoms, new laws and massive regulations.
So how do we handle these fears? How do we start to take back our lives and live in a world that, while does have some scary things, is not as scary as it is perceived by the 30 second videos on TV. How do we manage to do this? What can we do?????